Sunday, October 12, 2008

Meet "manga reader" Rikimaru Tōhō

by Chris MaGee

Here's someone that I think you should all know about. Rikimaru Tōhō is a self-stylized "manga reader". Never heard of it? Neither had I, nor had a lot of people because it's a career that Rikimaru has created for himself. For 5 years this rather shaggy looking fellow has been giving dramatic readings of various manga (Tetsuo Hara and Buronson's "Fist of the North Star" being one of his favorites) in Shimokitazawa Park and Inokashira Park in western Tokyo on Saturdays and Sundays.

And when I say dramatic I mean dramatic. Rikimaru has the unique talent to give voice to everything from delicate female characters to booming brawling villains, plus he does full sound effects too. His performances have already brought him a certain amount of fame and appearances on the late night comedy show “Arabikidan”, but his bread and butter are still his one-on-one park performances.

What I find so exciting about Rikimaru is how his manga performances are an extension of Japanese theatrical and cinematic traditions. From the narration of Noh, Kabuki and Bunraku plays to the benshi who would narrate and interpret silent films Japan has had a long history of individuals who would act as an intermediary between the audience and performers, so to see Rikimaru doing this with manga makes absolute sense. See him in action in the YouTube video below. He's pretty amazing.

If you read Japanese check out Rikimaru Tōhō's blog here. Thanks to Global Voices Online via Japan Probe for this story.

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